Saturday, January 26, 2008

Are trains really the way to go?

We're having 2 more train lines in the works and will be up by 2020, but is it really necessary? Now that I'm staying at Hougang most of the time (oh yah, I stay in hougang but my block is under punggol-pasir ris and not aljunied or hougang.. damn.. and I was hoping to be able to vote again come the next elections), I do take the NEL pretty often and somehow I can understand why the train frequency is so low. Of course there's lots of pple waiting for the train to get back to Hougang/Sengkang, but if you look at the train going in the opposite direction, it's virtually empty.

So what does the train going from Punggol to Harborfront have to do with the train going from Harborfront to Punggol? Well basically train service is a loop service, they go round and round.. so while it's profitable to run the train from Harbourfront to Punggol, it's not really profitable to run the train from Punggol to Harbourfront. Since NEL is not a government run service, it's not reasonable to expect it not to make profits, no one would work for zero benefits, that's just commonsense.

And it's also commonsense that the human traffic from Punggol to Harborfront would be virtually zero during the evening peak hours, so the question is, why? Why build a line which would not be fully utilized? Either they based their calculations on the wrong assumptions, or maybe they are just too optimistic.. Looking at the case of NEL, I really wonder if the two new lines would face the same fate.. It just seem wrong to me that we build and build without really knowing why? Is the demand really there? Does it really benefit the residents?

For pple who had been Hougang residents from long long ago, I think majority would agree that bus services served them better, they used to be so many bus going from Hougang to almost any part of Singapore and especially to town area.. now in order to go to Orchard Road, I would have to walk to the train station, take a train to Dhoby Ghuat then take another train to Orchard, else I can take the special city bus service, which costs more than 3 bucks, has an half an hour interval and only run on off-peak hours.. In the past, most Hougang residents can just go to the bus stop in front of their place and take a bus which goes directly from Hougang to town.

Although I prefer trains to buses coz their timing are more reliable, buses are still more convenient. So instead of trains which have such a high infrastructure cost, why not just open up more bus routes? And bus have an advantage compared to trains, when trains break down (like the recent 7 hour down-time), so many people get affected, if a bus train down, under a hundred get affected, isn't that better?

But then again, more buses means more traffic and maybe even congestion.. true.. but dun we have congestion because of all the building of the train lines? I dunno, I cant even remember when the junction outside Suntec have straight roads.. all the never ending digging.

I just dun think we should spend so much money building train lines when we can better utilize the money on planning bus routes.

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